At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Santorum “The Social Conservative”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Prior to the outcome of the Iowa caucus when it appeared that Ron Paul would be the victor, Republican media pundits were doing their best to marginalize this contest.  Some commentators even went so far as to declare theIowacaucus as virtually worthless. 

There is one respect—the most crucial respect as far as substance, not perception, is concerned—in which Ron Paul did as well as anyone else: he received the same number of delegates as did Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. That is, theIowarace, from this perspective, was a three way tie.  Of course, you wouldn’t expect to hear that on Fox News or “conservative” talk radio.  But it is true all of the same.

There is, however, another respect in which the establishment Republican’s worst nightmare did not come to pass.  Paul, though finishing with an exceptionally impressive showing, did not succeed in eliciting as many votes as either Santorum or Romney.  He received 22% of the vote compared to the 25% that they each garnered. 

Now, all of a sudden, the outcome of the Iowa caucus is a major game changer.  Until this week, Santorum didn’t come close to getting beyond single digits in any poll.  He hadn’t been much more popular than Jon Huntsman, who, until recently, most people forgot is still in the race.  Yet now, establishment Republican commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are bending over backwards to fuel Santorum’s momentum.  So far, it would appear that their efforts have been fruitful, for Santorum is already the new frontrunner.

Santorum, in truth, is the candidate for whom Limbaugh, Hannity, and many of their colleagues have been aching all along.  The conventional wisdom within the establishment Republican class is that Santorum is a “true conservative.”  Why?  Santorum is a “true conservative,” a conservative’s conservative, if you will, not just because of his positions on issues related to national security, but especially because of his positions on “the social issues”—i.e. “the moral issues.” 

A few remarks are here in order.

First, there isn’t a single piece of legislation, or even a single activity, that is devoid of moral import.  Thus, to speak of “the social issues,” meaning moral issues, as if they could be separated out from “economic issues” and “foreign policy issues” and whatever other issues that concern us is to speak confusedly.   The very association—the civil association—that the United States of America itself was originally intended to be is a moral association.

Second, there is neither a single politician nor even a single American voter who isn’t as concerned as is Santorum with “the social issues.”  The latter, however, has been quite successful at recruiting the media in the service of reinforcing his self-conception as the lone “social conservative” in this race.  This, no doubt, has something to do with the frequency and loudness with which he speaks about “the social issues.”  But, more importantly, it is due, not so much to his desire to use the federal government to advance his vision of morality—with the exception of Ron Paul, every other politician lusts after federal power—but the unabashed expression that he gives to that desire.   

And this brings us to the third point.

In The Fatal Conceit, F.A. Hayek notes the numerous ways in which socialist thought has infected our vocabulary.  The most prominent and common method by which this transformation has occurred has been by way of the attachment of “social” to all manner of things. 

In light of Hayek’s perceptive account, it is eminently appropriate that Santorum should be crowned our “social conservative.”  Santorum may not be a “socialist” according to the standard textbook definition of that term.  Yet inasmuch as he favors an ever expansive government by which to coerce citizens both here and abroad into endorsing his understanding of “the common good,” he indeed advocates a morality that is much more socialist than anything else.  As Ron Paul correctly noted during the debate in New Hampshire this past weekend, Santorum is as tireless an advocate of Big Government as anyone.

Leftist Democrats want to redistribute income from those who have earned it to those who have not.  To this end, they exploit the voter’s Christian sensibilities, specifically, his sympathy for the needy.  Republicans rightly (even if hypocritically) observe that Christian charity, real charity, is voluntary: there is no virtue where agents are compelled to act. 

When it comes to the “social issues,” Republicans like Rick Santorum would be well served to practice what they preach.  

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

also published in The Moral Liberal and American Daily Herald 



Michael Medved Unhinged

posted by Jack Kerwick

I have been a long time listener of Michael Medved’s nationally syndicated talk radio show. 

But now, all of that has changed.

Medved had been one of my favorite talk show hosts.  I found him to be quick-witted, articulate, and perceptive. Unlike those of his colleagues who routinely demonize their political rivals while heaping abuse upon callers to their shows, Medved could generally be relied upon to treat his opponents and interlocutors with civility and respect. 

But now, all of that has changed.

Just today alone, two people—one a close friend, the other a facebook “friend”—made comments to me regarding Medved’s peculiar, and dramatic, shift in temperament.  My close friend, who hadn’t listened to Medved in quite some time, happened to tune in just as the latter was berating a caller who challenged the constitutionality of the Iraq War.  Moments later, my friend contacted me: “What’s up with Medved?” he asked in shock.  “He sounded like a total whack job just a minute ago!” 

Incidentally, my friend agreed with the substance of Medved’s position. 

My facebook friend remarked upon what he perceived to be the raw “hatred” and “bitterness” that now routinely spewed from Medved’s lips.  Yet he also noted something else: Medved sounded most angry, most “bitter,” and most “hateful” when he spoke of Ron Paul.   

This is a crucial insight. 

I have written some articles in which I speak of “Paulophobia.”  My analysis of Paulophobia was, largely, satirical in nature.  Obviously, I never really believed that I had struck upon a heretofore undiscovered cognitive disorder.  But, I must say, if Paulophobia was a real mental disease, Michael Medved would be a classic textbook case of it.

This is no exaggeration.  Like a Pavlovian dog, Medved instinctively turns hostile at the mere mention of Paul’s name.  Paul is a “kook,” a “nut,” a “crackpot,” and an “extremist.”  And although, as far as I can gather, he never explicitly called Paul a “racist,” a “neo-Nazi,” an “anti-Semite,” and a “9/11 Truther,” Medved has spared no occasion to implicitly convict Paul of such charges.

During his coverage of the GOP presidential primary race, Medved has never given Paul the slightest bit of credit for any of the Texas Congressman’s many achievements. Paul routinely runs away with straw polls, nearly prevails in theIowa caucus, and steadily remains within the top-tier of candidates.  Yet the Paulophobia from which Medved has been suffering for years renders him from even begrudgingly acknowledging any of this. Paul’s campaign is as well organized and effective as any candidate’s, and it is supported, not by the kinds of special interest groups and zillionaires that pour resources into the coffers of the other candidates, but by millions of working class Americans composing a real “grassroots” movement.  On this phenomenon, however, Medved is silent.

Medved’s Paulophobia is so virulent that he adamantly refuses to entertain a hypothetical scenario in which Paul becomes the GOP’s nominee. Recently, when a caller started to ask him a question regarding just the possibility of Paul’s receiving the nomination, Medved quickly interrupted him: “He won’t be the nominee!” he retorted.  Ron Paul is completely “unelectable,” Medved repeated.  He is unelectable!  Unelectable! 

Such is Medved’s desperation to purge Ron Paul, not just from the primary contest and the Republican Party, but from “polite society,” that he has taken to spreading outright lies about Paul.  Just a couple of days ago, Medved said on the air that a “poll” shows Ron Paul losing to Barack Obama in a general election by 20 points

There is one very good reason why Medved never specified the poll to which he referred: no such poll exists.

Medved, I believe, probably first heard of this “poll” when another raging Paulophobe, Dick Morris, referenced it.  Interestingly, though, Morris did mention Rasmussen as the source of this statistic. There are only two problems, however. 

First, the Rasmussen poll in question shows Ron Paul down by roughly seven points in a head-to-head match up with President Obama—not 20 points.  Second, even this isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds when we see that the very same poll shows that among the other candidates, only Mitt Romney does better than Paul when pitted against Obama.  In other words, the idea that Morris and Medved try to convey when they cite this fiction—the idea that Paul will do worse in a general election than any other Republican candidate—is another big lie.   

There is one other charge that Medved has leveled against Paul. 

Paul is not a real “conservative,” he has emphatically declared.  This is ironic, coming from Medved, for it is he who is not a real conservative. 

Medved has never been a conservative.  He is a neoconservative—which is to say a pseudo-conservative. To put this point another way, Medved remains attached to the leftism of his youth, for neoconservatism or pseudo-conservatism is really just another variant of leftism.  It is a lighter or softer version, yes, but it is an expression of leftism all of the same.  We needn’t even consult his policy prescriptions to see that this is true. For this purpose, a simple consideration of the fact that Medved regularly embraces the ad hominem attack generally and Politically Correct attacks specifically is more than sufficient.  Real conservatives have neither the desire nor the need for such vicious and baseless non-arguments.

Medved is a sad figure.  He has become a mean-spirited and irrational little man.

If only he would have sought help for his Paulophobia a long time ago, he may have been able to prevent his present condition from coming to pass.       

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D. 




Ron Paul and Martin Luther King, Jr.

posted by Jack Kerwick

Much has been said about Ron Paul’s foreign policy.  Some of it has been good.  A lot of it has been not so good.  And there is no one who objects more strongly to his foreign policy than his fellow Republicans.

Paul’s foreign policy is “isolationist,” “naïve;” and “dangerous.”  On foreign policy, Paul is “to the left” of President Obama.  He is an “ultra-radical leftist.”  Because of his insistence that it is the dominant ideology of “interventionism”—what Paul and others characterize as “militarism” and “neo-imperialism”—that accounts for an increase of Islamic hostilities toward theUnited States—Paul, his detractors claim, “blamesAmerica.” 

This is the first thing of which to take note.

Accompanying this phenomenon is another: with Ron Paul’s surging popularity, his enemies have resorted to playing against him what black Florida Congressman Alan West rightfully calls “the last card in the deck”: the race card.  Because of some newsletters that he published a couple of decades ago, Paul has been accused of “racism.”

So Paul is a dangerous isolationist, an American “blamer,” if not a hater, and a “racist.” 

This deserves to be born in mind as we turn our attention, in just a couple of weeks, to another American with whom Paul is not ordinarily linked—at least not in any positive sense.

Every January the public sector grinds to a halt and one solemn event after the other unfolds as Americans remember Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday.  This is relevant to discussions regarding Paul’s foreign policy, for the very same Republican contributors to Fox News, talk radio, National Review, and The Weekly Standard who spare no occasion to blast away at Paul for his views will be equally ready to lavish praise upon Dr. King.

King’s position on foreign policy, you see, was vastly more similar to Paul’s than it is to any other Republican candidate.  In fact, it shares much more in common with Paul’s understanding of foreign policy than it shares with President Obama’s.  The difference between King and Paul, however, is that for however blunt Paul can be, the language in which he characterizes his position isn’t as damning as that the terms in which King cast his position. 

Although Republicans like to speak of King as if he was a neoconservative before there were neoconservatives, the fact of the matter is that if anyone was an “ultra-radical leftist,” it was King.  This is the thesis for which Michael Eric Dyson makes a compelling case in his 1996 book, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I am no fan of Dyson, a hard leftist himself.  But he is to be commended for this insightful work on a sorely misunderstood historical figure.  To appreciate King’s approach to foreign policy, Dyson situates it within his larger moral vision, a vision, according to Dyson, within which the goal of “racial justice” figures centrally. 

Although we hear little of this on MLK Day, King had come to believe that “the vast majority of white Americans are racists, either consciously or unconsciously.”  How could they not be?  According to King, America“was born in genocide.”  “Racial supremacy” was in America’s DNA from the beginning, a fact that is seen from its treatment of “the original American, the Indian [.]”  King condemned Americaas “perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.”  Near the end of his life, he concluded that if Americahad any hope of changing, there would have to be “a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values” (emphasis mine).   

America’s “racism” extended to its foreign policy.  The Vietnam War, King declared, was “senseless” and “unjust.”  It is Americans, he continued, who are the “criminals in that war,” forAmericahas “committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world.”  The United States is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”  American foreign policy vis-à-vis the fight against communism generally and the Vietnam War specifically was nothing more or less than “a new form of colonialism.”  Furthermore, even asAmericasubjected non-whites to unjust treatment overseas, it continued its assault upon blacks here: black soldiers, he remarked, were drafted in an “extraordinarily high proportion to the rest of the population.”  Dyson credits King with “showing the lethal links between racism, militarism, and poverty.” 

Interestingly, just as King’s conceptions of domestic and foreign policies are bound together by a single moral thread, so too do Ron Paul’s views on the same co-exist within a unified ethical vision.  Moreover, although King was a leftist while Paul is certainly not, there are similarities between the two.

Importantly, like King, Paul too regards American foreign policy as “imperialistic” and “militaristic,” and the wars in which we are engaged as “unjust” and “immoral.”  He has also suggested, on more than one occasion, that it is animated by a subtle but enduring bigotry against Muslims—virtually all of whom are non-white.  

Like King, Paul posits an inseparable connection between the federal government’s aggression toward non-whites abroad and what he perceives to be its unjust aggression toward non-whites here at home.  The so-called “War on Drugs,” Paul thinks, is “racist” in conception and effect, for not only has its prosecution had the effect of transforming black communities into warzones, blacks are disproportionately incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. 

At the center of King’s worldview is the goal of racial equality; at the center of Paul’s is liberty for all.  Still, they both note a racial subtext that unitesAmerica’s domestic and foreign policies, a subtext to which they equally object.

Let me be clear: I agree with neither MLK nor Ron Paul on these matters.  Nor would I want to be read as suggesting that the latter is something like a clone of the former.  If I thought this, I would not have invested countless hours into arguing for Paul’s presidential candidacy.

Rather, my point here is simply to show that their radically disparate treatment of King and Paul exposes exactly the sort of intellectual dishonesty and inconsistency that we have come to expect from Republican politicians and their media propagandists.  In treating King reverentially while treating Paul unconscionably, Republicans convict themselves of the most crass sort of cynicism, for when it comes to the issues under discussion, Paul is much closer to King than are they.   

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

Brief Thoughts on “Racism”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Ron Paul is accused of “racism” for material that was published decades ago in a newsletter that he used to publish.  Rather than argue here whether or not the charge is justified, let us instead consider the concept of “racism” itself. 

If those who endorse the conventional wisdom are certain of nothing else, they are certain of the truth of the following propositions: “Racism” is prevalent and it is the most egregious of transgressions, the most awful of vices.  So horrible is “racism” that it is perhaps the sole offense that our popular culture treats as virtually unpardonable.  Public figures are forgiven for all manner of evil, from marital infidelity to the violation of promises to chronic dishonesty.  But if convicted in the court of public opinion of “racism,” he or she can expect to be driven from “respectable society.” 

Our sense of certitude notwithstanding, popular thought regarding “racism” is in a dilapidated condition.  To put it more bluntly, talk on this topic is confused to the point of being incoherent.

For one, “racism” is almost always ascribed to whites.  This is very strange when it is considered that blacks victimize whites at a rate several times that at which whites victimize blacks. Roughly 90% of all interracial crime is black-on-white.  And since Hispanics are identified as “white” when they are the perpetrators of “hate crimes”—though not when they are victims—interracial crime involves white perpetrators  less than 10% of the time.      

But if “racism” is so easy to spot, and if it is something so terrible that no decent person could fail to be offended by it, then why are the most indignant of “anti-racists” among us invariably silent when it comes to the astronomical rate of black-on-white crime?

This is one paradox that deserves pondering.

There is another problem, though, upon which we would be well served to reflect.

In spite of—or perhaps because of—our incessant talk of all things racial, we are eons away from reaching a consensus as to the nature of “racism.” 


If you are white and you acknowledge that the average IQ among blacks is a standard deviation lower than that found among whites, you are “racist.” (If, though, you are white and acknowledge that the average IQ among Asians is slightly higher than the average IQ among whites, somehow, you are not “racist!”).

If you are white and you believe that this IQ difference found between blacks and whites is due to anything other than “cultural bias” in the IQ testing, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you support “the War on Drugs,” you are “racist.”

If you are white and you observe that according to the government’s own statistical surveys, blacks victimize whites in far greater numbers than whites victimize blacks, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you support the death penalty specifically and strict enforcement of the laws generally, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you enjoy NASCAR driving, or golfing, or hockey, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you believe that O.J. Simpson was guilty of murdering his wife and her lover, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you prefer the suburbs to the cities, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you prefer private schools to public schools for your children, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you use words like “black hole, or expressions like “pure as the driven snow,” you are “racist.”

If you are white and you are a Christian, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you are materially well to do, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you are conservative, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you are a Republican, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you are a member of the Tea Party, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you are not a leftist, you are “racist.”

If you are white and you are a leftist, you are still “racist.”

If you are white and a police officer or soldier, you are “racist.”

If you are white and Southern, you are “racist.”

If you are white and didn’t’ vote for Barack Obama in 2008, you are “racist.”

If you are white, voted for Obama, but are now critical of him, you are “racist.”

If you are white, you are “racist.”

Whether it is to Adolph Hitler, Bull Connor, or David Duke; neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, Confederate soldiers, or Republicans; Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Ron Paul; Trent Lott or the Los Angeles Police; genocidal murderers or white babies—some indignant “anti-racist” or other has applied the term “racism.”

How, any remotely reasonable person must ask, can a word that is applied this indiscriminately to persons and organizations that share nothing in common but the color of their skin possibly have any meaning?   At the very least, such a person can only conclude that if the term ever meant anything, it has long since lost what meaning it had.

There is one final consideration to which we should attend when exploring the concept of “racism.”

During the medieval era, it was not uncommon to regard God as “the Unmoved Mover” and “the Uncaused Cause.”  Today, it would seem, we think of “racism” along similar lines.  “Racism” may not be eternal, like God, but, the “anti-racists” imply, it no more owes its being to antecedent causes than does God Himself.  The (always white) “racist” is treated as the embodiment of raw, undifferentiated irrationality.  And he is thought to be as immoral as he is irrational.

Two things of which to take note here.

The first is that no disposition or activity, whether something to which we decide to give the name “racism” or anything else, partakes of this character: there are reasons, whether justified or not, for everything.

Secondly, whether the reasons for “racism” or any anything else are good or bad is something that can be settled only once those reasons are identified and discussed. 

“Racism” is indeed a matter over which we should dialogue.  Yet if it is greater understanding, not moral exhibitionism, in which we are interested, then our discussion must begin with a tough minded examination of the concept of “racism” itself.

Jack Kerwick, Ph.D.

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